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  • Cecile Corral

Colleagues take stock of the industry at rug show

Area rug suppliers and retailers devoted time and energy during the Atlanta International Area Rug market to raising the bar on product quality and price points.

"Instead of trading the customer down to the entry level, we are trying to figure out how to step up the customers to something that is not quite the same price as a hand-knotted rug but something that looks like it," Gary Cissel, director of flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart.

Many showrooms made space for competitively priced traditional styles that have evolved into cleaner looks.

"We're looking for more updated looks that are transitional," said Kelly Watson, floor coverings buyer, Macy's West.

Added David Mink Jr., area rug buyer, Macy's East, "One of the main things I came here looking for is modern. That's the biggest thing we're seeing move now in the store. Red is selling very well, and we're looking to increases our assortments with these things. It's not necessarily price point but rather design and color that we are looking for."

Some suppliers achieved this through license partnerships, mainly with designers and artists.

Sugar Valley, Ga.-based Mohawk officially launched its Raymond Waites Collection, for which it's made a separate creel devoted only to the designer's line. Georgia-based Oriental Weavers reintroduced its Woolrich program and sister company Sphinx by Oriental Weavers, also based in Daton, Ga., launched its first licensed program ever, the Andy Warhol Collection, comprised of both machine- and hand-made rugs.

"We went with Warhol because a lot of his artwork is transitional and contemporary and complements our line and what we see happening in the marketplace," said Jonathan Witt, vice president, marketing, Sphinx.

While sister brand Mohawk Home looked to Waites to enhance its line, Sugar Valley, Ga.-based Karastan refreshed its assortment by reconsidering its design direction — typically upscale traditional.

The company's new Townhouse collection of cross-woven rugs with space-dyed colors bridges elements of traditional designs signature to the company with more contemporary looks and newly developed color schemes, like ginger and thistle.

"We are taking classic patterns and giving them new colors," said Elizabeth Miller, senior vice president, design.

Saddle Brook, N.J.-based Nourison and Fort Lee, N.J.-based Couristan made similar strides, the former through design and the latter through construction.

Nourison offered at this market, "more contemporaries than usual, because we see it as a strong growth area for us," said Ed Vairo, director of creative marketing. "We see an increased demand for more modern looks."

Couristan has expanded its hand-tufted offerings with the introduction of the new Oasis, Timberlake and Fragments collections in gabe-like designs in natural as well as bright colors.

Not everyone is looking for brand names or upstairs looks. Charlie Furukawa, buyer, The Bon Marche, shopped for "lifestyle naturals and shags that can sell for under $400. That's where the market is going to be."

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